A “CLOUD” has hung over Lord Brittan for a long time and progress needs to be made to uncover the truth behind allegations of child abuse by public bodies, a campaigning MP has said.
Offering his condolences to Lord Brittan’s family for their personal loss, Simon Danczuk said the peer and former North Yorkshire MP, who died last night of cancer, should have faced questions and been compelled to give evidence to the embattled inquiry into child sexual abuse.
The Labour MP for Rochdale, who investigated claims of abuse by ex-MP Cyril Smith, said: “Firstly, I’d like to offer my condolences to Sir Leon’s family for their personal loss.
“However, Sir Leon’s (Lord Brittan’s) untimely death is also a loss to the inquiry that the Home Secretary ordered into establishment child abuse.
“Only this morning we were debating the lack of progress in the inquiry and Sir Leon is someone who should have faced questions and been compelled to give evidence to the inquiry over his role as home secretary in the 1980s when a dossier containing allegations of establishment child abuse was handed to him.
“It’s fair to say that a cloud has hung over him for a long time. If we’re going to get to the truth of what happened then Theresa May needs to start making progress. A lot of the people who need to give evidence are in advanced years and we’re running out of time.”
In 1984, Lord Brittan was handed a 40-page dossier by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens alleging high-level paedophile activity in Westminster, which came to be known as the “Dickens dossier”. The dossier has since gone missing.
The Home Office admitted last July that more than 100 files relating to historic organised child abuse over a period of 20 years had gone missing.
In October Labour MP Jim Hood used parliamentary privilege to air claims that Brittan himself had been linked to child abuse.
Mr Hood, MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, made the remarks about Lord Brittan during a Commons debate on coalfield communities and immediately faced a point of order.
Mr Hood said: ‘’The rumours that Sir Leon Brittan was involved with misconduct with children does not come as news to miners who were striking in 1984.
‘’When miners were going up into the dock in magistrates’ courts, we were aware and miners were declaring... the point is miners were saying in the dock in magistrates’ courts throughout the strike that they objected to instructions coming from the home secretary when there was reports about child abuse being linked with that same home secretary.’’
Last June, Lord Brittan was reportedly interviewed under caution by police in connection with the alleged rape of a 19-year-old student in his central London flat in 1967, before he became an MP.
He confirmed he was interviewed by police about a ‘’serious allegation’’, but insisted that the accusation was ‘’wholly without foundation’’.
Alison Millar, from law firm Leigh Day, who is representing victims of abuse, said: “Our clients will be disappointed that Leon Brittan, as a witness at the centre of the issues the inquiry is to examine, is now not able to answer questions about what he knew about allegations of child sexual abuse.
“It is absolutely vital that fresh efforts are now put into preserving his documents and files to enable the inquiry to learn more about what he knew about abuse amongst establishment figures during his time in Government.”
Former Conservative party leader Lord Howard said it was a “tragedy” that Lord Brittan’s final days had been overshadowed by the controversy over his handling of the paedophile dossier, although he was not overly perturbed by it.
“As far as I know, he behaved perfectly properly,” Lord Howard, a fellow former home secretary, told Sky News.
“I think it is a tragedy that his last days were dogged by these quite unsubstantiated allegations but actually I don’t think it did have very much effect on him.
“He obviously knew the truth and I don’t think he was particularly troubled by them.”